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Listening Practice: Back to the Future (Part 1) – Football in 1985

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La Liga PreviewThis week saw ‘Back to the Future Day’ on October 21st which is the date when the characters in the 1985 film went on their time travels. To celebrate this classic movie date we are going to take a look at what football may look like in thirty years time but first we’ll take a look back at what football was like 30 years ago in 1985. You can listen to the report by clicking on the link above, and you can also read the transcript of the report (below). There is also explanations of key vocabulary (in bold).

Listening Practice: Back to the Future (Part 1) – Football in 1985

World Champions

Italy were the World Cup holders in 1985 having defeated West Germany (the unification of Germany did not occur until 1990) 3-1 in the final in Madrid three years earlier. The 1986 World Cup qualifiers were taking place in October 1985 and England, Scotland and Northern Ireland all managed to make it through to the 24 team competition the following year. They were joined by eventual winners Argentina and debutants Denmark and Canada.

English Football

Going in to the 1985-86 season, Everton were the holders of the English League title having easily won the crown under the guidance of former player Howard Kendall. On October 21st 1985 Manchester United were ten points clear at the top of the table and looked odds on to take their first title in 17 years but they faltered and finished fourth behind West Ham United, runners-up Everton and champions Liverpool. Liverpool also beat their Merseyside rivals Everton in the FA Cup final that season to complete a wonderful double. One major difference between thirty years ago and today was that there were 22 sides in the top tier – then known as the First Division – compared to the 20 teams in the Premier League today. That season saw teams such as Ipswich Town, Birmingham City, Oxford United, Luton Town and Sheffield Wednesday all playing in the First Division – I wonder when any of those clubs will make a return?

European Football

Now the holders of the 1985 European Cup on October 21st were Italian side Juventus after they had defeated Liverpool in the final in Belgium. The game had been marred by crowd trouble that saw 39 supporters killed and later resulted in English clubs being banned from European competitions until the 1990-91 season. The holders of the European Cup Winners Cup (a competition that now no longer exists) at the time were Everton, while Real Madrid were UEFA Cup champions. Looking at the top of the tables around Europe on October 21st 1985: Real Madrid were three points clear of Valladolid and Sporting Gijon, while Juventus were top in Italy and Werder Bremen were two points clear of Borussia Monchengladbach.


The whole organisation of English football changed in 1992 with the founding of the Premier League so back in 1985 things were much simpler. England still had four divisions but they were known as Division 1, Division 2, Division 3 and Division 4 with no such thing as The Championship, League One and League Two to confuse everyone and of course there were no such things as play-offs either. In 1985 only the English First Division, among the top leagues in world football, had adopted three points for a win and it was not really until the 1994 World Cup that other major leagues decided to use this now common format. Two other big changes have occurred since the 1985 season: Tackling in that season was much different as football was very much a contact sport. It was not until the 1990s that the tackle from behind was banned and forwards all over the world breathed a huge sigh of relief. The other major difference between now and then was that goalkeepers were able to pick the ball up after a back pass from one of their own players – this is now not allowed – and since the rule change it could be argued that football has definitely got a lot quicker and better to watch.

World’s Best Player

It might be hard for some to believe but UEFA president, currently suspended, Michel Platini was one of the greatest players in world football and in 1985 he picked up his third Ballon d’Or in a row as the best player in Europe. The then Juventus player was at the top of his game and had helped France become European Champions in 1984 and his club side win their first ever European Cup the season after. But perhaps the best player in the world that year (and maybe for many more years to come) was Argentina and Napoli star Diego Maradona who in 1985 was in his second season at the Italian side and about to help his national team become World Champions the following year in Mexico.

Let us know if you have any memories from the 1985 season by posting a comment below.


the unification: Joining of two parts of the country

debutants: First time appearance

the crown: the title

odds on: Favourites (a betting term)

faltered: Made mistakes and did not play as well as before

had been marred: Ruined, damaged

the European Cup Winners Cup: Competition for winners of domestic cup

had adopted: Had decided to use

format: system

Ballon d’Or: Trophy for the best European player of the season



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